How to prevent tooth decay in children

Eating patterns and food choices among children and teens are important factors that affect how quickly youngsters may develop tooth decay.

If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. Many researchers believe disease progresses faster and could be more severe in people with nutrient-poor diets.

Choose foods wisely. Some foods that you would least expect contain sugars, such as fruits, milk, bread, cereals and (even vegetables!).

The key to choosing foods wisely is not to avoid these foods, but think before you eat. WHAT you eat and WHEN you eat makes a big difference in your dental health.

To get a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods. Choose foods from each of the five major food groups:

  • breads, cereals and other grain products
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • meat, poultry and fish
  • milk, cheese and yogurt

Limit the number of snacks you eat. Each time you eat food that contains sugars the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

When you eat, food passes through your mouth where it meets the germs or bacteria (plaque) that live in your mouth. These bacteria love sugars found in many foods. When you don’t clean your teeth after eating, plaque bacteria use the sugar to produce acids that can destroy the hard surface of the tooth, called enamel. After a while, tooth decay occurs. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, helping wash foods from the mouth and lessening the effects of acids.

For good dental health, keep these tips in mind when choosing your meals and snacks and remember to brush and flossy daily.

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